United States Secretary of State John F Kerry pledged Bangladesh to help in repatriation of the most-wanted fugitive Rashed Chowdhury, one of the convicted killers of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, who is living in the USA illegally. The information came from the report on Foreign Minister Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali’s visit to the US in last December.
Cabinet secretary Mosharraf Hossain Bhuiyan after the cabinet meeting on Monday briefed media about the report. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina presided over the meeting. The report said the US secretary of state is impressed at the steps has been taken by Bangladesh government to contain terrorism.
The cabinet approved the draft of International Finance Corporation Act (amended)-2015 and Bangladesh Palli Unnayan Board Act 2015 (amended)-2015. The secretary said both the acts are already in practice. After incorporating some additions and deletions, both the acts will be translated in Bangla, the secretary added.
e-NewsDesk- DHAKA, Dec 15, 2014 : The nine-month long War of Liberation waged by the people of Bangladesh in 1971 will for ever remain recorded as one of the most glorious chapters in human history. The sovereign and independent People’s Republic of Bangladesh, as it stands today, is the outcome of an arduous struggle of the people under the leadership of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
The very nomenclature of the country, the declaration of independence, proclamation of the glorious War of Liberation, the national flag- the crimson sun on the canvas of green and the inspiring national anthem – all these we owe to his inspiring and unique vision and courage. He served to shape the history and aspirations of his people. He rejuvenated them with the indomitable and unbending spirit of Bengalee Nationalism, charged them with unprecedented courage, valour, resilience and granite-like unity and triggered off an armed struggle for freedom- the like of which the world rarely witnessed before.
As usual, the Victory Day is a joyous celebration for Bangladeshis all over the world, in which popular culture plays a great role. TV and radio stations broadcast special programs and patriotic songs. The main streets have been decorated with national flags. Different political parties and socioeconomic organizations undertook programs to mark the day in a befitting manner, including the paying of respects at Jatiyo Smriti Soudho, the national memorial at Savar near Dhaka. the nation observed the Martyred Intellectuals Day commemorating the murders of the country`s golden sons and daughters on this day in 1971 just before the ultimate victory on December 16 after nine-month war with the Pakistani occupation forces.
Liberation War: Initiation
The Liberation War did not start overnight. It had been brewing for 23 years. Ever since the birth of Pakistan in August 1947, the Bengalees first felt ignored in the scheme of the country’s governance and gradually found themselves deprived and exploited by the power elite dominated by the West Pakistani bureaucrats, the military and the big businesses.
Although they constituted the majority of the country’s population, the Bengalees of the eastern wing had a very poor representation in the civil services and the armed forces and had almost no place in commerce and industry. At the political level, their voice was stifled in the name of security of the realm and the bogey of mighty Hindu India’s constant threat to the existence of Islamic Pakistan which had its two wings separated by nearly 1200 miles of Indian territory. The Muslims of the eastern wing were regarded as inferior Muslims and no effort was spared to cleanse them and make them as ‘good as the Muslims of West Pakistan.
By 1958, Pakistan went under military dictatorship blocking normal avenues for a political resolution of the constitutional issue. In September 1965, Field Marshal Ayub Khan fought his country’s second costly war with India, exposing the military vulnerability of the eastern wing, and also made a costly experiment with democracy in getting himself elected as President through a ridiculously limited franchise of 80,000 ‘basic democrats’ It was against this background that Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman put forward in 1966 his historic six points which, in effect, structured the foundation for East Pakistan’s future independence. The proposal suggested:
1. Pakistan should be a federation of states with parliamentary system of government;
2. Only defence and foreign affairs should remain with the federal government;
3. There should either be separate currencies for the two wings or one currency for the whole country with its inter-wing flow to he regulated by the reserve banks of the two wings;
4. Taxes to be levied only by the regional governments, but a specified portion will automatically go to the federal account;
5. Separate accounts to be maintained for foreign currencies earned by each region; and
6. A separate militia or a paramilitary force to be created for the eastern wing.
Historic genocide and bloodshed
The Liberation War which resulted in the secession of East Pakistan from the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and established the sovereign nation of Bangladesh. The war pitted East Pakistan and India against West Pakistan, and lasted over a duration of nine months. One of the most violent wars of the 20th century, it witnessed large-scale atrocities, the exodus of 10 million refugees and the displacement of 30 million people.
The people quickly woke up to the warnings their leader had sounded time and again about the evil designs of the Pakistani military and the directives Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman had issued about building up resistance with whatever they had. They soon turned their anger into determination to beat back the occupying military at their own game. That meant no immediate direct confrontation at the strategic positions of the enemy troops, but employment of guerrilla tactics to drag them out of their fortresses and force them to spread out into the country-side which was the freedom fighters’ home ground.
On 16 December 1971, Lieutenant General Amir Khan Niazi, CO of Pakistan Armed Forces located in East Pakistan signed the Instrument of Surrender. The Instrument of Surrender was a written agreement that enabled the surrender of the Pakistan Eastern Command in the Bangladesh Liberation War, and marked the end of the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971 in the Eastern Theater.
The surrender took place at the Ramna Race Course in Dacca on December 16, 1971. Lieutenant General Amir Khan Niazi and Lieutenant General Jagjit Singh Aurora, Joint Commander of Indian and Bangladesh Forces, signed the instrument amid thousands of cheering crowds at the race course. Air Commodore A. K. Khandker, Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the Bangladesh Armed Forces, and Lieutenant General J F R Jacob of the Indian Eastern Command, acted as witnesses to the surrender. Also present were Vice-Admiral Mohammad Shariff, commander of the Pakistani Naval Eastern Command and Air Vice-Marshal Patrick D. Callaghan of the Pakistan Air Force’s Eastern Air Force Command, who signed the agreement. On behalf of Bangladesh, Air Commodore A. K. Khandker acted as witness to the surrender. Lieutenant General Jacob Rafael Jacob, Chief of Staff of the Indian Eastern Command, along with the other commanders of Indian naval and air forces, acted as witnesses on behalf of India. Aurora accepted the surrender without a word, while the crowd on the race course started shouting anti-Niazi and anti-Pakistan slogans.
Participation of ‘Muktibahini’ (Freedom Fighters)
Mukti Bahini or Liberation Army, also termed as the “Freedom Fighters” was a guerrilla force which fought against the Pakistan Army during the Bangladesh War of Independence in 1971.
The earliest move towards forming the liberation army came from the reading of declaration of independence by major ziaur rahman of East Bengal Regiment on behalf of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. He had defected after the 25th March crackdown of Pakistani Army on Bangladeshi Forces. In the declaration made from Kalurghat Betar Kendra (Chittagong) on 27 March 1971, Zia assumed the title of “provisional commander in chief of the Bangladesh Liberation Army”.
Statistics of Freedom Fighters
Maj. Gen. K.M. Shafiullah, the commander of Sector-3 and later commander of S-Force during the War of Liberation, and later the first Chief of Army Staff of Bangladesh Army gives as estimate in his book “Bangladesh in Liberation War” as follows:
The above is the number of Freedom Fighters under of the Bangladesh government in exile. The estimate for other smaller forces are as follows:
Mujib Bahini 10,000
Kader Bahini 5,000
Hemeyet Bahini 1,500
Martyred Intellectuals Day
14th December is observed as Intellectual Martyrs Day in Bangladesh in memory those bright souls who fall victim to a brutal military regime two days before West Pakistan surrendered.
The martyred intellectuals include Munir Chowdhury, Dr Alim Chowdhury, Muniruzzaman, Dr Fazle Rabbi, Sirajuddin Hossain, Shahidullah Kaiser, Gobinda Chandra Dev, Jyotirmoy Guha Thakurta, Santosh Bhattacharya, Mofazzal Haider Chowdhury, Khandaker Abu Taleb, Nizamuddin Ahmed, SA Mannan (Ladu Bhai), ANM Golam Mustafa, Syed Nazmul Haq and Selina Parvin.
President, Prime Minister and Opposition Leader each year pay their respects at the Mirpur Intellectual Martyrs Mausoleum in the morning. Hundreds of people also gather at the Memorial to honour the intellectuals who were murdered in the killings fields of Rayerbazaar in the very last days of the War.
Bir Sreshto: The Most Valiant Heroes
The Bir Sreshtho title is the highest military award of Bangladesh. It was awarded to seven freedom fighters who showed utmost bravery and died in action for their nation. They are considered martyrs.
The Bir Sreshtho title was awarded by the Bangladesh Gazette 15 December 1973. It has been given to seven people. Listed below are the people who have received the Bir Srestho.
Shaheed Lance Naik Nur Mohammad Sheikh
Shaheed Flight Lieutenant M Matiur Rahman
Shaheed Naik Munshi Abdur Rouf
Shaheed Md. Ruhul Amin
Shaheed Sepoy Hamidur Rahman
Shaheed Sepoy Mostafa Kamal
Shaheed Captain Mohiuddin Jahangir
Ek Shagor Rokter Binimoye (Video) Singer: Swapno Rai, Lyrics: Gobind Halder, Tune: Apple Mahmud
Sources: Bangladesh Online News, Bangladesh Genocide Archive, Wiki, i-Bangla Limited, Bangabandhu.com.bd and DoinikBarta
Bangladesh emerged as an independent nation in December 1971 after a horrendous ethnic genocide inflicted by the Pakistan Army beginning March 1971 on the Bengali East Pakistan even though the Pakistan Bengalis constituted Pakistan’s majority population.
The genocide was vicious and brutal leading to the slaughter of nearly a million Bangladeshis. It was meant to stifle the Bangladeshi demands for independence.
The Pakistan Army genocide onslaught on Bengali East Pakistan was launched to nullify the General Elections results which would have swept the Awami League of Sheikh Mijibur Rahman into power in Pakistan. The Pakistan Army had the tacit support of Pakistani prominent leaders like Zulfiqar Bhutto.
Bangladesh emerged as an independent nation soaked in blood and violence. The Pakistan Army can be said to have virtually wiped out a generation of the best intellectual brains of Bangladesh.
The whole of 2013 has witnessed Bangladesh engulfed in a series of externally funded or inspired violent demonstrations operating with dual political objectives.
The first objective was to pre-empt or prevent the International Crimes Tribunal War Crimes trials of Bangladeshis who collaborated with the Pakistan Army in its genocide against Bangladeshis who happened to be their fellow citizens and co-religionists. These Bangladeshi collaborators of the Pakistan Army genocide were predominantly of the Jamaat-i-Islami. The first execution has taken place and some more are awaited.
Bangladesh’s present ruling Awami Party cannot be faulted for exorcising the Bangladeshi psyche of the ghosts of its genocide and cleansing the political ethos if violence which still persists. Bangladesh’s Generation Next has widely welcomed and supported these moves of the Government.
The second political objective operating in Bangladesh is to somehow prevent or discredit the January5 2014 General Elections ordered and being considered as per the existing Constitution. Spearheading incessantly this unending disruptive strikes and violence is the main Opposition Party, the BNP, which presumably feels politically toothless by its main coalition partner the Jammat-i-Islami being debarred by the Supreme Court from contesting elections. Jammat-i-Islami the largest Islamist party in Bangladesh
In essence what Bangladesh is witnessing today are some shades of the Liberation War 1971, Then it was a violent war being fought for liberation and independence. Today it is a political war with more violence than dialogue as Bangladesh’s Generation Next aspires that the ruling Government goes firmly ahead with exorcising the ghosts of Liberation War 1971. Then too the Islamist parties were on the wrong side of history and now too they are on the wrong side of history.
Contextually, it is curious and surprising that the United States and China as two major countries calling for ‘all inclusive’ General Elections are overlooking the fact that the main Opposition Party, the BNP has obdurately dug in its heels to ensure that General Elections as scheduled are not held or even if held as per the Constitution, then the outcome stands discredited. The ostensible demand being made is for a caretaker government when that provision in response to a Supreme Court ruling was constitutionally amended.
It is open to question as to why the United States with flurry of US officials visits to Dhaka and China with its ‘friendly’ advice have not been able to prevail over the BNP not to boycott the Elections. Is there some sub-surface geo-political game going on by these two?
At this crucial juncture, it would be appropriate to recall the United States and China’s record in the Bangladesh Liberation War 1971.
United States Sordid Record of Permissiveness in Pakistan Army’s Genocide in Pakistan
The United States dislike of the Awami Party stems from its role in the creation of Bangladesh. The United States record was rather ignoble and permissive of the Pakistan Army genocide of 1971.
Even today enough media reports are available suggesting that the United States perceptionaly desires that a BNP-Jamaat-i-Islami coalition should emerge as the new Bangladesh Government. So much so that reports indicate that one of the reasons for the current US-India stand-off is the widely differing political perceptions on Bangladesh.
Coming back to the sordid record of the United States in the 1971 Liberation War, I would like to quote a few excerpts from a brilliant book that has come out “The Blood Telegram” by Gary J Bass. It details the open revolt by the US Consulate in Dacca in 1971 headed by Archer Blood. Their despatches reflect the US sordid record in not restraining the Pakistan President and the Pakistan Army from ghastly atrocities being observed by the US Consulate officials and being reflected to Washington.
Read these damning excerpts from this book:
“The cable ( Blood Telegram to the State Department0 – the most radical rejection of US policies by its diplomats- blasted the United States for silence in the face of atrocities, for not denouncing the quashing of democracy, for showing ‘moral bankruptcy’ in the face of what they called ethnic genocide”
“As its most important international backer, the United States had great influence over Pakistan. But at almost every turning point in the crisis Nixon and Kissinger failed to use that leverage to avert disaster. Before the shooting started, they consciously decided not to warn the Pakistan’s military against using violence against their own people”
Nixon and Kissinger, always sympathetic to the Pakistan junta, were not about to condemn it while it was making itself so useful ( in opening a secret link to the Chinese leadership for the Americans ). So the Bengalis became collateral damage for realigning the global balance of power.”
“But Americans have been able to forget the legacy of 1971, the peoples of the sub-continent have not. The atrocities remain Bangladesh’s defining national trauma leaving enduring scars on the country’s politics and economy.”
The United States today has a lot to atone for and the least recompense is not to interfere in the internal political dynamics of Bangladesh. Their emphasis should not be on an ‘all-inclusive election’ but should have laid emphasis on ‘General Ejections be conducted strictly as per the Constitution’.
The emphasis on ‘all-inclusive elections’ is pressurising the present Government to yield to the BNP blackmail and thereby bring their preferred BN into the reckoning again.
China Opposed to Bangladesh’s Creation and was Complicit with the United States
China could not reconcile to the dismemberment of Pakistan and creation of the nation-state of Bangladesh. In this direction China twice used its veto powers to prevent the admission of the Bangladesh in the United Nations.
In the book quoted above it transpires that the United States in a bid to forestall the creation of Bangladesh prevailed on China to move Chinese troops to the India-Tibet border so that the Momentum of Indian Army and Mukti Bahini offensives racing for the fall of Dacca could be stalled. China did so and even issued ultimatums to India on specious grounds.
Fortunately both the United States and China could not reverse the tide of history and the Bangladeshi upsurge for liberation from the Pakistani brutal and suppressive yoke.
Chinese call today for all-inclusive elections is laughable when in China itself there is no democracy or inclusive political functioning. The Chinese ethnic and religious genocide in China Occupied Tibet is in no way less than the Pakistan Army genocide in Bangladesh in 1971.
In conclusion, at this critical juncture when Bangladesh Government and its Generation Next is engaged in exorcising the ghosts of its Liberation War1971 through the War Crimes Trials, they must remember the words of the Founding Father of Bangladesh, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, who declared famously that: “ I have given you independence, now go and preserve it.
Bangladesh should never again allow itself to become “Collateral Damage” in any future geopolitical games.
Paper No. 5625 Dated 27-Dec-2013
By Dr. Subhash Kapila
The genre of biography has been undergoing lots of changes in terms of themes and styles ever since the publication of Boswell’s Life of Dr. Johnson (1791). While Boswell’s work is regarded as the finest literary biography ever written, and still enjoys its status as ‘a classic of language’, many other biographies assume the role of history. As Thomas Carlyle put it in his Heroes and Hero Worship (1840) “the history of the world is but the biography of great men”. Ralph Waldo Emerson was more advanced than Carlyle in this regard. He aimed at closing the gap between biography and history in his Essays: First Series (1841). To quote: “There is properly no history; only biography”. The tendency to overlap between biography and history has come down to us.
Syed Badrul Ahsan’s biography of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, too, is not an exception. It deliberately distances itself from Boswell’s treatment of the genre, and leans more towards Carlyle’s and Emerson’s notion about biography, allowing a considerable overlap between the two subjects. This is for obvious reasons. The subject of Boswell’s biography was Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), popularly known as Dr. Johnson, who was an English poet, essayist, moralist, literary critic, biographer, editor and lexicographer, and ‘arguably the most distinguished man of letters in English history’, while the subject of Ahsan’s biography is a Bangladeshi pre-eminent politician and statesman, arguably the best Bengali ever, and honoured in Bangladesh as the father of the nation. Both subjects are larger than life characters — the former being presented artistically with utmost creativity, originality and literary skill and the latter historically by a gripping but candid narrative.
While there is a growing trend of muckraking biographies all around the subcontinent, Ahsan focuses on the significant things needed to be brought to light to deal with the subject of his study. Even Mahatma Gandhi’s biographers —Joseph Lelyveld or Jad Adams or Nehru’s biographer Stanley Wolpert orIndira Gandhi’s biographers — Pupul Jayakar, Zareer Masani, Inder Malhotra and Katherine Frank tried, on the pretext of writing biography, to wash their subjects’ dirty linen in public. The subjects of their biographies may have had feet of clay, but that hardly overshadows their achievements and hence should not be treated with a view to tickling popular fancy.
Ahsan’s biography of Sheikh Mujib is not at all of the cheap muckraking kind. He has rather come up with a sublime treatment of his subject and left no nasty taste in the mouth. He has chosen as his subject a man who stands no comparison with any other political personalities of his country. Mujib bears comparison with Abraham Lincoln of America, Vladimir Ilyich Lenin of Russia, Winston Churchill of England, De Gaulle of France, Mao-Tse-Tung of China, Ho Chi Minh of Vietnam, Sukarno of Indonesia, Kamal Ataturk of Turkey, Mandela of South Africa, Patrice Lumumba of Congo, Jomo Keneyatta of Kenya, Ben Bella of Algeria, Fidel Castro of Cuba, Mahatma Gandhi of India and Jinnah of Pakistan. Mujib’s life is deeply embedded in the history of the birth of Bangladesh. He was the fearless fighter of the Language Movement of 1952; the pioneer of the democratic movement of 1962; the originator of the Six-Point Movement of 1966; the life-force of the Mass Movement of 1969; the enviable victor of the election of 1970 and, above all, the greatest hero of the Liberation War of 1971. He is undisputedly the architect of independent Bangladesh. The story of such an iconic personality needs to be told and retold dispassionately by the right persons for the younger and future generations at home and abroad. The writer of the foreword of this biography, National Professor A. F. Salahuddin Ahmed, too, feels like that and is convinced that Syed Badrul Ahsan’s work on Sheikh Mujib “will do that job to the satisfaction of all.”
With this end in view, the biographer seems to have done that job to the best of his ability. He has been a writer and journalist for about three decades now and written considerably on Bangladesh politics, South Asian history, American presidential history, Soviet and Chinese communism and politics in post-colonial Africa. To write about the tumultuous events of the Bangladesh Liberation War (1971) and of the life of Sheikh Mujib was always a deeper passion with him which he, perhaps, inherited from his father. In his own words: “My association with Sheikh Mujibur Rahman… began in early 1968 when I heard my father speaking in whispers with his colleagues about the charge of conspiracy laid at Mujib’s door by the Pakistan government. My father’s conviction was absolute: Mujib, a believer in constitutional politics, was made of better stuff.” But he never killed his passionate subject of writing with kindness or emotion. His intellectual rigour, emanating from his research as a Fellow at the Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Advanced Studies on three major Bengali political figures–Chittaranjan Das, Subhas Chandra Bose and Sheikh MujiburRahman — has found expression in this biographical account.
Ahsan tries quite arguably to establish Mujib as the most inspirational figure in Bangladesh politics by portraying the transformation of his role spread over a period of about three decades, starting from the Bengalis’ struggle for self-dignity and ending in the War of Independence, and even after he was killed. As Ahsan puts it in the preface of his book: “…in the broad perspective of history, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman remains a metaphor for Bangladesh and for its long sustained struggle for freedom. In life he was the Bengalis’ spokesman in the councils of the world. In death, he continues to be a powerful voice, forever ready and willing to speak for those who yearn for freedom and national self-dignity.” Ahsan tells us the story of the “rebel who did not give up and because he did not, Bangladesh was born.” What Stanley Wolpert said about Mohammad Ali Jinnah is more applicable to Mujib. To quote: “Few individuals significantly alter the course of history. Fewer still modify the map of the world. Hardly anyone can be credited with creating a nation-state. Mohammad Ali Jinnah did all three.” Ahsan must have meant to say that Mujib, too, did all three and he did them in a far better and more successful way than Jinnah. A perfect foil for Jinnah, he altered the course of history by aborting Jinnah’s so-called ‘two-nation theory’, modified the map of the world by demarcating 56,000 square miles for a new-born country and created a nation-state called Bangladesh. And how a young follower of the All India Muslim League had gradually been transformed into a veteran political leader, who led his country and people from the front to the way to independence through a revolution and finally was consumed by a counter-revolution, constitutes the factual plot around which Ahsan’s biography revolves.
Ahsan’s book showcases all the historic events associated with the political birth of Bangladesh under Mujib’s able and charismatic leadership. He has substantiated his proposition with facts and figures which speak for themselves. The book is organized into seven parts, beginning with Mujib’s initiation into politics in the late 1930s and ending in his murder, and tags a postscript on to its end which is germane to the core parts. The core parts discuss at necessary length subjects/issues/events/matters like Mujib’s initiation into politics, Awami Muslim League, Pakistan after Jinnah, Language Movement, Mujib as an emerging star, politics in crisis, at the epicenter, martial law and Tagore, taking charge after Suhrawardy,1965 war and East Pakistan, Six-Point programme, rise of Bhutto, Agartala and resurgent Bengal, Bengal’s spokesman, Pakistan’s prime minister in waiting, Road to Bangladesh, Genocide and Mujibnagar, Trial in Mianwali, Triumph in Dhaka, Flight to freedom, Mujib in power, Shaping foreign policy, Emerging cracks, Mujib in Lahore once more, Gaining UN, losing Tajuddin, From pluralism to second revolution and Murder of Caesar.
That Syed Ahsan writes good English is well known to his readers. His biography has been written in a lucid style. The liberal interpretation of facts and niceties of argument have endowed the book with the qualities of a successful biography. The pictures used in the book have added to its merit. It’s sure been worth a read. The good writer has more claim to the book’s success than anybody. From Rebel to Founding Father—Sheikh Mujibur Rahman—is a prized inclusion in the list of Mujib biographies in English.
Rashid Askari dissects a biography of Bangladesh’s founder
From Rebel to Founding Father Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Syed Badrul Ahsan Niyogi Books, New Delhi
Dr. Rashid Askari writes fiction and columns, and teaches English literature at Kushtia Islamic University, Bangladesh. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org